It seems you can have too much democracy in a union, at least if published reports are to be believed. The pro-AFTRA blog SAG Watch is reporting that SAG leaders will not allow or at least will strongly discourage the issuance of a minority report on the proposal to merge with AFTRA when the SAG board votes on the proposal this weekend. This, despite the clear advantage to both sides of allowing a healthy debate to take place in order to foresee all the potential implications of the complicated proposal.
(UPDATE: The go-to reporter for SAG’s current leadership, Jonathan Handel at The Hollywood Reporter, is reporting that SAG will in fact allow a minority report to be prepared and sent to members along with the now-approved merger proposal with AFTRA (assuming as is unanimously expected AFTRA also approves the still-secret merger proposal). The remaining question is who will actually prepare the report. To be done well, to be genuinely a balance against the majority report, will require resources for dissenting board members to hire professional staff to analyze a complex proposal.)
The concern about a minority report follows reports that the newly merged SAG-AFTRA union would eliminate the direct election by the rank and file membership of some top leaders. This kind of direct election has been the norm in SAG for many years. It has some problems because it encourages support for well known figures but it also ties leaders to the membership as a whole. AFTRA uses an intermediary convention which only meets every other year to elect top officers.
The new union will have a much wider array of members who are engaged in very different activities for very different kinds of employers. That diversity when combined with weaker rank and file control over top leaders typically reinforces the power of professional union staff – sometimes referred to derisively as “bureaucrats” – who can easily lose touch with those they are hired to serve.